It's Jackie Thelen's turn to pilot the seventh-ranked Flyers.
The Little Falls senior has been the team's top Nordic skier the past two meets, helping the Flyers continue their command on snow.
Thelen started her recent string of wins Jan. 17 at the Greystone Challenge in St. Cloud. She captured the pursuit title with a 42:48 by winning the classic (20:47.7) and the skate (22:00.3).
"I don't know what happened," Thelen said of her first individual varsity win. "I just really pushed myself."
Two days later, Thelen won the Flyer Invite at Camp Ripley with a pursuit time of 38:52 and led the Flyers to a 26-point win. Teammates Molly Binger, Beth Hauer and Megan Johns placed second, third and fifth, respectively.
"I can honestly say with this squad I don't know from one week to the other who will be the top skier," said Flyers head coach Terry Wasland. "Jackie is skiing really well right now. She's loose and relaxed and that's showing in the results. She seems to be the top one right now. Who is next? I don't know."
School: Little Falls
Sport: Nordic ski
Key stat: Individual winner at Flyer and Greystone Invites
Hauer was the lead pilot at the start of the season. Thelen said having a state-experienced team with many quality skiers takes the pressure off everyone. She said the entire team has stepped up in the absence of last year's top skier, Melissa Kempenich, who graduated.
Wasland said all his skiers want to be the leader, but are mature enough to know the top spot will continue to switch this season.
Thelen is a three-year letterwinner, two-year All-Central Lakes Conference skier and three-time state skier. During the state meet her sophomore season she finished 38th with a pursuit time of 38:42.8. She completed the team's fastest skate time of 18:31. Her classic time was 20:11.8.
At last year's state meet she finished 31st with a pursuit time of 39:51.3, helping the Flyers to third place. A fall near the finish of the classic race prevented her from reaching her goal of all-state (top 25 finish).
"That's pushing me a lot," said Thelen, who's also in soccer and track and field. "I want to do a lot better at state. I know that I could have gotten all-state, but you can't control what happened. My goal is to get in the top 25 this year."
Wasland believes it could happen as Thelen worked hard last summer on her technique. He said she is fluid and continues to improve and get stronger.
"She's a great skier," said Wasland, "and she's a great person. That's the joy with this team. Whatever she chooses to do in life she will do well because she's a great person with a great work ethic and is a quality individual."
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Gabrielle Boser, Pierz, had 11 points and 14 rebounds against Sauk Rapids.
Kaari Jensen, Pierz, had 18 points, seven steals and six rebounds against Sauk Rapids and 26 points, eight rebounds, eight steals, five blocks and five assists against Rockford and 16 points and nine steals against Maple Lake.
Meredith Chaput, Aitkin, scored 24 points against East Central and 20 against Pine City.
Emily Mehr, Aitkin, scored 20 points against East Central.
Emily Lueck, Pequot Lakes, scored 20 points against Staples-Motley.
Anne Wallen, Lake Region, had 30 points, 17 rebounds, seven steals and 10 blocks in three games at the Chisago tournament.
Avery Jackson, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 24 points against Staples-Motley.
Sam Stanfield, Crosby-Ironton, scored 21 points against Pine River-Backus.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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